Iain's Reviews > The Female Man

The Female Man by Joanna Russ
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Apr 26, 12

it was amazing
Read from April 09 to 21, 2012

Up-front, it's necessary to say that the reason for five stars here is that this is a book I think that everyone should read. It's by no means a claim that everyone will love it. But if you can't get something out of this book, if you don't take something meaningful away from reading it, even if you have problems with the style or the approach or the form, I'll be astonished.

It's a hard book to rate on several of the standard metrics. The author is upfront and open about the fact that the 'characters' aren't really characters at all, for example. 'Joanna' is simply the author herself, 'Janet' an idealised vision of what she could be in another world, 'Jeannine' the persona society wants her to adopt, and 'Jael' (despite being drawn directly from another of Russ' works) here stands for a sort of warped version of 'Janet', one more involved with the author's anger and negative reactions. Similarly, the plot is minimal, slightly inconsistent, doesn't really go anywhere, and often digresses: but these digressions are the point - deeply personal but at the same time insightful considerations of gender issues. A stronger, better structured plot would simply have distracted from the real aim of the book.

And it's those reflections which make the book worth reading. Some of them might seem obvious nearly forty years down the line, one or two might even seem overcooked, but Russ writes - as ever - with a real power and a searching honesty that makes you look at them anew. And it's shocking how many are still relevant today, to both men and women. Definitely recommended for everyone.
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